Ervin Drake

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Ervin Drake
Drake in 2006
Drake in 2006
Background information
Birth nameErvin Maurice Druckman
Born(1919-04-03)April 3, 1919
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 15, 2015(2015-01-15) (aged 95)
Great Neck, New York, U.S.
Years active1931–2014

Ervin Drake (born Ervin Maurice Druckman; April 3, 1919 – January 15, 2015) was an American songwriter whose works include such American Songbook standards as "I Believe" and "It Was a Very Good Year". He wrote in a variety of styles and his work has been recorded by musicians around the world. In 1983, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[1]


Born in New York City, Drake had his first song published at age 12, in 1931. The son of Jewish immigrants[2] Max Druckman and Pearl Cohen, he attended Townsend Harris High School in the borough of Manhattan, graduating in 1935, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science from the City College of New York in 1940. His elder brother, Milton Drake, also became a songwriter, with work including "Java Jive" and "Nina Never Knew"; and his younger brother Arnold Drake, became a writer for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and others, as well as an author and playwright.[3]

Drake wrote the lyrics for "Perdido", composed by trombonist Juan Tizol, a member of Duke Ellington's orchestra, and first recorded (by Ellington) in 1944. Besides composing music and lyrics for dozens of pieces he was also a television producer and worked with performers including Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle. Among his best known songs is "I Believe", the first hit song ever introduced on television, which was written for and introduced by Jane Froman on her television show in 1953, and became a number-one hit for Frankie Laine, holding the record for number of non-consecutive weeks spent at number one in the UK. It has also been recorded by many other artists including Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley.

He wrote the words and music for "It Was a Very Good Year" in 1961, when a publisher friend told him that Bob Shane of the folk music group the Kingston Trio would be in the publisher's office the next morning, and the publisher asked Drake to write a song for Shane to sing solo.[4] Shane recorded it for the album Goin' Places and other folk performers covered it.[3] In a 2009 interview, Drake said that in 1965, Frank Sinatra had heard the song on his car radio as he was driving home in the desert and immediately pulled over in the middle of the night to a gas station and pay phone.[5] Sinatra called Gordon Jenkins and told him he wanted him to make an arrangement with plenty of strings and maybe an interesting instrument like the oboe could be used as well. When he arrived back in L.A. he recorded it for his career comeback album September of My Years.[3] The Sinatra recording was a Top 30 single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, and made No.1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

As a lyricist, Drake, with composer Irene Higginbotham, wrote the jazz standard "Good Morning Heartache". It has been recorded by many artists, including Billie Holiday and later Diana Ross when she portrayed Holiday in the movie Lady Sings the Blues.[6] Most recently, Gloria Estefan recorded it for her 2013 album The Standards, and sang it to Ervin and wife Edith on live TV on CBS This Morning. Following the performance Ervin, Gloria and the two hosts bantered a while about love and love lost.

Drake was the founding president of American Guild of Authors and Composers from 1973 to 1982, which has since changed its name to Songwriters Guild of America.[7]

On January 15, 2015, Drake died at his home in Great Neck, New York due to complications from bladder cancer shortly before his 96th birthday.[8][9]

Awards and honors[edit]

Drake received several honorary doctorates and achievement awards, as well as being inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1983.[1]

On June 30, 2013, Five Towns College named the Ervin Drake Popular Music Center after Drake.

Selected works[edit]


  • "Now I Have Everything"
  • "A Room without Windows"
  • "Bachelor Girl"
  • "I Believe"
  • "Good Morning Heartache"
  • "It Was a Very Good Year"
  • "The Rickety Rickshaw Man"
  • "I Wuv A Rabbit"
  • "Who Are These Strangers"
  • "I'm A Card Carrying Bleeding Heart Liberal"
  • "One God"
  • "Lying Beneath A Scrubby Palmetto"
  • "I've Never Had The Pleasure"[4][10]

English-language lyrics written for foreign-language songs



  1. ^ a b "Ervin Drake". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  2. ^ "Ervin Drake, songwriter - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. January 27, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Friedwald, Will (April 2, 2009). "When He Was 46 it Was a Very Good Year". The Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ a b Bush, John. "Ervin Drake Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  5. ^ James, Gary. "Ervin Drake Interview". FamousInterview. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. ^ "Good Morning Heartache".
  7. ^ Klein, Alvin (April 17, 1988). "They Write the Songs: Hit Parade Gala". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Bernstein, Adam (January 15, 2015). "Ervin Drake, songwriter of 'It Was a Very Good Year,' dies at 95". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ Roberts, Sam (January 16, 2015). "Ervin Drake, Composer of Pop Songs, Dies at 95". The New York Times. p. D6.
  10. ^ "Ervin Drake Songs". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  11. ^ "Heads or Tails". Playbill. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  12. ^ "What Makes Sammy Run?". Playbill. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  13. ^ "Her First Roman". Playbill. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  14. ^ "Sophisticated Ladies". Playbill. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  15. ^ "Motown the Musical". Internet Broadway Database.

External links[edit]